When I was posted to Uttarlai, I was friends with a few central government officers. Utarlai is a small village about 15 km from Barmer and houses an FBSU, a front line base against Pakistan. There is a rail line from Barmar to Munabao, which is right on the border, so this is a strategically important place. In olden days the train went straight from Jaipur to Hyderabad( Sind) through Munabao. I was posted as the commander of the base and I landed by train from Jaipur( there is a direct train from Jaipur).

I was received at the railway station by the chief admin officer and conducted to the officer's mess. This was all routine and I was well aware of everything.  I wanted to have a look at the base and I asked for my Gypsy to take me around. The vehicle duly arrived with my driver and I drove straight to the airfield and the air traffic control tower. I had a look at the hangers where the MIGs were parked and was pleased with their look.  I had earlier carried out an informal study of  Uttarlai and Barmer was aware that the BSF maintained a lovely desert Golf Course. Such golf courses in the desert do not have any greens which are replaced by fine sand vetted with oiL. The BSF used discarded engine oil for their Golf Course

 I resolved to make the most of my time in the desert and play golf also.After settling down my driver drove me to the Golf Course where I had my first introduction with a man called Rathore. He introduced himself as the local head of the Indian Intelligence. Later on, I came to know that he was from RAW.  We became good friends and more often met on the course.I also invited him as the commander of the base to the Air Force Station and we had a couple of large pegs of scotch whiskey in the bar in the officer's mess

  One day Rathore rang me up and asked me "Captain are you free tomorrow?"

I was intrigued by the question. 

" yes" I replied "of course"

"Ok Capt "he replied" I will come tomorrow early morning and pick you up but look, friend, we will travel in my jeep and not in your staff vehicle. I hope you will have no objection "

Though surprised I agreed. 

" One more thing Capt don't come in uniform and I request you to come in Mufti."  As you all know Mufti is the term used in the military for the ordinary civil dress.

The next day I got ready for the trip with a T-shirt and jeans. Just as I was leaving a sixth sense warned me to take my service revolver with me. So I instructed the driver to drive to the armory, where I drew my .38 Webley Scott. I collected six rounds as well and loaded my weapons and rotated the cylinder and found the weapon in good condition and oiled. The armorer had done a good job.

The honking of the jeep and a call from the guardroom informed me that Rathore had come. I drove to the guard room and saw Rathore there sitting in a jeep.  It was a Wrangler and rarely seen in India, but it's a great vehicle to drive in the sand with its 4x4 drive.

"Come captain" Rathore waved to me"let's get cracking"

I settled into the jeep and asked: " you going to drive, no driver..?"

He laughed "Captain we are on a mission and I don't need a driver"

"fine, " I said" I can lend  a hand if required"

He smiled and said softly"Captain, you have read Sherlock Holmes?. Do you know when Holmes was on a trail he would say 'Watson the game is afoot'."

" Yes," I replied, " but what is all this".

He put the wrangler into gear and the Jeep softly moved forward. We moved past the dunes on way to Munabao.

" You haven't answered my question, " I said.

As the wrangler sped forward, Rathore looked at me with an enigmatic smile and said: " captain we are on to Munabao where a rep of Murtaza Bhutto is to meet us". I was thrilled" But why take me ...?".

"I got clearance from RAW director to take you as you are an Air Force officer and I need someone for a back up as this is not only an important but dangerous mission. "

Rathore was silent for some time as the vehicle sped forward in the dusty road made by the border roads organization. He accelerated and the jeep sped forward.

" I will let you know something about this mission. I have received a large suitcase from the headquarters. I don't know what is in it, but it is important that this suitcase is delivered to a man at Munabao who will be a rep of the leader Murtaza Bhutto. Our job is to hand over the suitcase and get back. But the jr Bhutto has a lot of enemies and there could be some sharpshooters around".

He had just uttered these words when I saw a camel sitting right in the center of the road. Rathore brought the jeep to a halt and shouted to a man sitting close to the camel

" Take that camel of the road".

"Ji Huzoor" the man replied and got up.

My trained eye thought his movements were suspicious and I caught the butt of my revolver. The man walked to Rathore and when he was close he pulled out a pistol and fired. It was quick action, but I had also fired and the man was hit by my bullet and his pistol fell from his hand as he collapsed on the road I looked at Rathore and saw the bullet had hit his arm and he was bleeding.

" What next?" I asked " I should get you to a hospital"

"No, no" he shouted " drop me here and I will be safe. I will radio for help, but you carry on to Munabao. Remember the man will be wearing a red color salwar Kameez and the password is " Ek cup Chai".( one cup of tea).

I was loathed to leave him but Rathore got out clutching his bleeding arm and began to dial his wireless.

" go, captain, go, this mission is important"

I saw the dead man on the road, the man who had pulled the gun on Rathore. I knew he was an enemy agent and maybe there were others as well. I put the jeep into gear and moved away. I saw the receding figure of Rathore as he waved me on.

I had gone a few miles when far away I saw two camels. I halted my jeep and took stock of the situation.I did not continue on the dusty road but put the jeep into its 4x4 drive and veered into the sand dunes.  I had once driven in the sand dunes in Dubai, so I was not a novice. The jeep began to climb the dunes and then go down. It handled beautifully and far away I could see the camels. Two men were looking in my direction as I moved and then I heard a shout

" Mother fucker, he is trying to outwit us. Get him, Khalid".

The man had a rifle and he could easily pick me out. So I decided to drive towards the men and the camels. This surprised both of the men, who expected me to try and run away. There was a momentary lapse which was fatal for the man with the rifle. As I neared I opened fire with my Webley. The .38 is a lethal weapon and I was on target. I had hit the man in the arm and his rifle fell to the ground as he slumped down. I fired in quick succession, two more shots and one of them hit the other man. He fell on the road and it was obvious he had received a fatal shot.

I came close to the man sprawled on the ground clutching his arm.I  said " Salaam" and drove away towards Munabao. The rest of the drive was easy and I reached the small village and located a tea shop. There was only one and sat down clutching the suitcase.

Then a Pathan, a large man wearing a red salwar Kameez appeared. he sat opposite me and boomed " Ek cup Chai". I know he was my man. I repeated the words and the man shook my hand.

" Barkhurdar, you have taken a great risk. But where is my friend Rathore?/ I hope he is OK"

 He did not wait for an answer as the tea which had been brought was left untouched. He grabbed the suitcase and got up.

" Insha Allah, may god with you. Convey my regards to Rathore".

He left like a whirlwind and now I knew a desert storm was brewing as I got up, paid for the tea and left. I reached back without any incident. On the way back I did not see the injured man or the two men I had shot. I also did not see Rathore. When I reached the mess, I got a call. I answered and the voice at the other end answered "well-done captain, the job is done and I am safe, God willing we will meet again" Rathore never came back to Barmer and I never met him again. Was he now on another mission? who can tell?


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